Spring Causes Change of Plans On Quebec-Labrador Journey

Almost a year ago, in June 2023, Justin Barbour set out to canoe, snowshoe, and trek 3,800km from Hudson Bay in northeastern Canada down to the southernmost point on the island of Newfoundland. He wanted to finish in a year and has mostly stayed on schedule, despite some setbacks and a recent route change.

We last covered Barbour in early January when he exited the canvas tent in northern Quebec to hit the trail again. He’d stayed in place for a few weeks until winter froze the creeks, lakes, and rivers, making travel possible again.

Strapping on his snowshoes and dragging a traditional toboggan, he set off again on January 4. Heading south, he covered 207km over the next 38 days, eventually arriving at the small community of Schefferville.

barbour map

A map of Barbour’s route. The star shows his mid-March location. He reached the yellow X last week. Photo: Justin Barbour

Extreme cold and plenty of snow

From Schefferville, he continued across the border into Newfoundland and Labrador. Before he set off, Barbour told us that this manhauling stage might be the toughest section of the entire route.

From his occasional updates, his prediction looks accurate. Barbour reported extreme cold, with temperatures as low as -42°C, and some stormy weather.

“[I’ve been] blasted with several major snow storms…and nearly lost the tent to a sudden…wind squall,” he wrote in mid-February.

A month later, in mid-March, he took a break from Labrador’s interior. “After 230km in 22 days from Schefferville, I dragged the ol’ sled out to the Trans-Labrador Highway on Friday, just west of Churchill Falls,” Barbour wrote.

There, he reunited with his wife for the first time in four months, ending the second half of his expedition’s winter leg.

Justin Barbour and his wife, Heather.

Justin Barbour and his wife, Heather. Photo: Justin Barbour


After a few days off Barbour was back in his snowshoes and marching south-east. “Atikonak Lake it is. Big Land skies! 424km to next goal. Tricky route ahead as wilderness tightens,” he wrote in a brief GPS update on March 27. His next check-in, on April 10, suggested things might be getting tricky: “Little Mecatina River now. But nature is heating up.”

Swapping out the snowshoes

Next came a surprise announcement of a major change of plan. Barbour had doubled back to the highway and traded in his snowshoes and sled for a bicycle.

“Been interesting times folks! Just solo bikepacked 1,150km across Trans-Labrador Highway…there’s a longer grind of a story to it. But in brief, spring struck hard, my river roadway for tobogganing burst open, and being too restless to wait a month for lakes to ice out enough for a canoe, I adapted. Pedaling in-between seasons kept momentum going and the expedition close to on schedule,” Barbour wrote on Facebook.

Justin Barbour and his bike.

Barbour during the unplanned bikepacking leg. Photo: Justin Barbour


Now reunited with his dog Saku, Barbour’s next stretch will involve backpacking through the woods of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula for 300km. He has roughly 1,000km remaining to his endpoint on Newfoundland’s southern coast. He hopes to arrive by July 6.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found out in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.